Imagine the mutt-iest Mutt, black and white, seemingly yards of flapping tail and tongue. Erratic markings. Clattery nails. Milk teeth like tack strips for carpet.
That was Spooky, my first puppy.
Meanwhile, my dog-doting father told me a story wherein a villainous tomcat blinded his first puppy. Little sponge that I was, my heart absorbed his fear and lifelong bias.
Three decades later, my eldest daughter was offered a cat.
Interrogate yourself, then discard false assumptions? Shelve your father’s old, embittered story?
The things you do for love . . .
. . . go unnoticed as, all too soon, your daughter prefers The Cat for entertainment. Comfort. Heart-to-heart talks.
I longed for the role of comforter and confidante. I wanted to be her good time, all the time.
How does one coax gratitude to emerge—albeit one furry inch at a time?
“Laurie, sit.” (Watch, and enjoy her joy.)
“Laurie, stay.” (This too is a form of power: love overruling the need to be needed, a command I’ve had to learn, over and over.)
Yesterday, my daughter texted me. She’d found a vet who, despite social distancing mandates, would allow her to hold Ellie, cherished feline companion for 14 years, as they eased her into the final sleep.
It’s a holy thing to witness a pet lover’s last full measure of devotion. How I longed to be at my daughter’s side. But that honor rightly passed to a dear friend, the one her children have nicknamed Seashell.
“I’ll watch the kids,” I texted back.
At the clinic, I entered her car armed with books and treats. “Aanie,” my grandson gravely said, “Ellie’s crossing the Rainbow Bridge.”
I did not yet know the famous anonymous words written for grieving pet owners. I thought fast.
“Which color will her paw touch first?”
“Orange. Blue. Purple!”
And there would be clouds where she could play. And take a nap. His mama had told him a story worth holding onto, so different from the one my father had told me. And isn’t this the way bias is overcome, one story, one action, at a time?
Yesterday God showed me, yet again, that sometimes stepping to one side so another can grow and thrive in their own way is vital.
And my daughter showed her child Goodbye is sad, but it can still be beautiful.
We treasure our children. Our pets. “Stay!” our hearts cry.
All too soon, we must relearn “Sit.” And we do, quietly, with our memories. Our sorrow. Acceptance. Eventual gratitude.
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge. . . . There are meadows and hills . . . plenty of food, water and sunshine . . . [A]nimals who have been ill or hurt . . . are made whole and strong again . . . happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly, he darts away from the group, flying over the green grass . . . faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you . . . finally meet . . . happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together . . .
Who might come bounding toward you on that rainbow bridge?
You might also enjoy Crossing the Gap
Rainbow photo, Marco Forno on Unsplash
Hand and Paw photo by Seashell